Iran’s president has responded with defiance to the latest sanctions imposed by the US, saying they show it is lying about wanting dialogue.
Hassan Rouhani said the measures against Iran’s supreme leader unveiled by President Donald Trump on Monday would be “useless” and denounced US plans to target his foreign minister.
The moves showed the White House was “mentally retarded”, Mr Rouhani added.
Mr Trump said he was responding to recent “aggressive behaviour” by Iran.
Last week, Iranian forces shot down a US surveillance drone they said had violated Iranian airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. The US insisted the drone was flying over international waters.
The US has also accused Iran of being behind two sets of explosions that have damaged six oil tankers in the region, through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes each day. Iran has rejected the allegation.
Tensions between the two countries have escalated steadily since May 2018, when Mr Trump abandoned the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, and began reinstating sanctions to force Iran to renegotiate the accord.
Last month, Iran scaled back some of its commitments under the deal, including the amount of low enriched uranium it is allowed to stockpile, after Mr Trump ended exemptions from US secondary sanctions for countries still buying Iranian oil.
The US is hoping these additional sanctions will force Iran to negotiate, with US National Security Adviser John Bolton saying Washington was willing to go further in order to get Iran to the table.
“They’ll either get the point or… we will simply enhance the maximum pressure campaign further,” he told reporters. “It will be, I think, the combination of sanctions and other pressure that does bring Iran to the table.”
Mr Trump said the measures would deny Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his office, and those closely affiliated with him, access to key financial resources and support.
“The supreme leader of Iran is one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. He’s respected within his country. His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
Some analysts said the sanctions were largely symbolic, although the US treasury department said the measures would lock up billions of dollars in assets.
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